Ties to Elkhart helped Paez family in bid to fight deportation

The Paez family's lawyer said several factors figured in federal immigration officials' decision to put a hold on their deportations to Colombia -- their ties to the community, potential violence they would face in their home country and the many letters of backing they received.
Posted on June 20, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

The Paez family’s ties to Indiana and good standing here in Elkhart factored in federal immigration officials’ decision to put a hold on orders calling for their deportation to Colombia, according to their lawyer.

“They have truly integrated into and been contributing members of the local Elkhart community,” Maria Baldini-Potermin, a Chicago-based lawyer, said in an email Tuesday. “The outpouring of support from the community has been incredible, which demonstrates how much members of the Elkhart community value them as part of the community.”

Armando Paez, his wife Martha and their three kids, who came to Elkhart from Colombia in 1999, have been trying to secure formal residency here in the United States for years. Their efforts continue, but last Friday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials informed the family that orders calling for their removal from the nation have been stayed, at least until March 22 next year.

The family welcomed the decision with relief, though it’s a temporary measure that only resolves the matter until next March, while Baldini-Potermin said she’s “very glad” for the Paezes.

The Paezes traveled to Chicago last March to formally ask that ICE officials put a hold on their deportation orders via a bureaucratic mechanism called “prosecutorial discretion.” The family entered the United States legally, with visas, but they overstayed them and now find themselves in migratory limbo as authorities sort out their case.

“They have exhausted their court appeals,” Baldini-Potermin said.

Notably, the family submitted around 500 letters of support in seeking stays of deportation — from friends, work associates, teachers and others, all in a bid to underscore their ties to Elkhart. But Baldini-Potermin said other factors also entered into last Friday’s decision:

Ÿ The violence and leftist insurgents in Colombia. A left-wing rebellion has been simmering in Colombia for years and Armando Paez initially sought political asylum in the United States, claiming he’s a potential target. Immigration authorities have rejected the asylum bid, but Baldini-Potermin said the violence continues in Colombia.

Ÿ The youth of the Paez children when they first came to the United States in 1999, between ages 1 and 9. Federal immigration guidelines call for “particular care and consideration” in cases involving undocumented immigrants here since childhood.

Ÿ Immigration guidelines that call for a focus on criminal offenders, serious felons and others who pose a risk to national security, not low-key immigrants like the Paezes.

Though the Paezes’ efforts continue, the three Paez children, Ana, Maria and Juan, potentially gained another means to remain in the United States under terms of new immigration guidelines announced by President Obama last week.

Under the changes, certain undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children by their parents would be able to apply for two-year, renewable permits letting them remain in the country. Baldini-Potermin said the Paez children would likely apply for the special status.

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